There is little in the news other than talk of impeaching Donald Trump. I have taken a look at past impeachments to see what they can tell us.
We need to remember that an impeachment is the equivalent to an indictment. If someone is impeached, the Senate holds a trial. It takes a 2/3 vote to remove them from office.
Such extreme action has been rare. There have been only 19 times that the House has adopted a resolution and assigned a committee to begin an inquiry. Three were against presidents and one against a senator. The others involved judges. There have been two impeachments in the 21st century. They involved judges and both were removed from office.
The most interesting ones involve presidents. Efforts against Truman, Bush 43 and Obama went nowhere. John Tyler was the first president to be involved. Congress was upset over some vetoes but the attempt to impeach failed. A committee was formed to investigate charges of corruption against James Buchanan. It cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached. His refusal to work with Congress led to a disastrous election in which both houses had vetoproof majorities. They passed the Tenure of Office Act. It required congressional approval for the president to fire a member of their cabinet. They were trying to force Johnson to keep cabinet members who were disloyal. He fired Edmund Stanton, the secretary of war. The House impeached him. The effort to remove him from office failed by one vote.
The House authorized the Judiciary Committee to do an impeachment inquiry against Richard Nixon. They hired a large staff to do research. Among them were Hillary Rodham (now Clinton) and William Weld who is challenging Trump in the 2020 election.
Watergate was a massive scandal. Many high-level appointees ended up in prison. The big question was the degree to which Nixon was complicit. They eventually drew up five articles of impeachment. The committee approved three of them. The most serious one related to his role in covering up the Watergate burglary.
Nixon was fighting the release of his presidential tapes. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously against him. One tape showed that he clearly was part of the coverup. He then resigned his office. Had he not done so, he most certainly would have been impeached and convicted.
Bill Clinton became the second president to be impeached. He was sued by a woman named Paula Jones for sexual harassment when he was a governor. While president, he had a relationship with Monica Lewinsky. She told a friend about it. The friend taped the conversations and notified Jones’s attorney. Clinton took steps to conceal the relationship and suggested Lewinsky not tell the truth. In a deposition he said they didn’t have a sexual relationship and denied that they were alone together. The judge ruled that the Lewinski information was immaterial. The case was thrown out of court because Jones didn’t show any damages. It was later settled out of court.
The House impeached him on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. After the Senate trial, there were insufficient votes to remove him from office.
His behavior with Lewinski and attempts at a coverup were appalling. Had he behaved that way in a criminal trial, it would certainly have been obstruction of justice. I don’t believe irrelevant testimony on a case that was thrown out constitutes obstruction. The perjury charge depends on whether or not the activity they engaged in constitutes sex. I don’t believe his behavior met the constitutional requirement.
Eight presidents have been involved with impeachment in one form or another. I believe that Nixon is the only one guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. Next time I will take a look at charges that are being made against Trump.
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